It's time for Don Shula to make some moves

January 20, 1993|By Edwin Pope | Edwin Pope,Miami Herald

Long-term, anyway, the Buffalo Bills' 29-10 massacre of th Miami Dolphins in the AFC title game might produce something positive: Miami's mercenaries can't keep wallowing with a run offense that has been a big fat zero for all but one of the past 15 seasons.

On coach Don Shula's list of to-do's, nothing is more urgent than an industrial-strength overhaul of the entire rushing game, beginning with the offensive line.

"You can't do anything if you can't run the ball," Shula said.

And Team Shula won't run until it restructures the whole scheme.

No one would take any pleasure in a redeployment of John Sandusky, the assistant head coach and offensive line coach who is responsible for the running game.

Sandusky, 67, is a loyal and incredibly conscientious aide-de-camp who has been working on two artificial hips. He deserves every huzzah for the Dolphins' superior pass-blocking that only this season started down the tubes. Shula and Sandusky have been together 24 years, so replacing Sandusky would be an extraordinary wrench for Shula. But the organization must have another place where Sandusky's dedication can be maximized if he wants to stay with it.

Dwight Stephenson's name comes into play, too. Unfortunately, it comes in as assistant coach, not all-star player. Stephenson will get my earnest vote for the Hall of Fame the day before the Bills meet the Cowboys in Pasadena. He seems miscast as a coach.

Larry Little also will get my Hall of Fame vote. I would pitch in an additional exhortation for Shula to consider Little in future staff plans.

Again, one coach or one player won't change today's hapless concept and execution, both crying out for mental and physical infusions.

Over and over we hear, "The Dolphins aren't patient enough in sticking to the run."

Tell me the point of sticking with a tortured process that produced 100 yards or more in only five regular-season games. With the league's No. 24 running system, that's not patience. That's suicide.

The bluest bottom line is that, even after all this time, the Dolphin rush has not done better than 22nd in the NFL the past seven seasons.

"You've got to run, and you've got to stop the run," Shula said.

Even if you stop the run -- and these Dolphins did that, until the Bills drilled them for 182 yards in the championship -- you go

nowhere without a running offense.

How many Super Bowls would Dan Marino have played in if his running game had only been better than 18th in the NFL in any season since the Dolphins lost the 1984-season Super Bowl?

Lost, in great part, because they couldn't run.

I will concede that Sandusky and Stephenson haven't had Pro Bowl talent at their fingertips.

I don't concede that all the blame revolves around the players.

If Richmond Webb and Keith Sims haven't improved since their terrific rookie seasons of 1990 -- and they haven't -- why haven't they?

There are worse centers than Jeff Uhlenhake, and worse right guards than Harry Galbreath although Galbreath has been in a season-long Texas death match.

Meanwhile, rather than helping both Mark Dennis and Jeff Dellenbach, the harebrained business of alternating them strictly quarter has taken away perhaps half of either's effectiveness.

When you have to ask if Jim Brown could succeed in this running scheme, it is time to make moves. And the only one who can make them is Shula.

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